[For further information on the FAO Biotechnology Forum see the Forum website.
Note, participants are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf, unless they state otherwise.]
Sent: 02 December 2008 10:42
Subject: 47: Role of biotechnologies in jatropha/pongamia
This is Dr. S.K. Sharma, Principal Scientist (Plant Physiology) at the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI), Karnal (Haryana), India. We have been undertaking an extensive program to exploit the potential of Jatropha and Pongamia for biodiesel and bioenergy generation and identify the tolerance potential for saline, alkali/sodic soils and irrigation with poor quality waters besides suitable agricultural practices for optimum productivity. We have conducted a series of experiments at CSSRI Karnal and its regional research stations at Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), Bharuch (Gujarat) and Canning Town (West Bengal) for the last four years and would like to share some of our experiences with participants:
- Pot studies on Jatropha and Pongamia indicate moderate tolerance to alkalinity (sodicity) up to pH 9.5 and salinity (electrical conductivity (EC) 10.5 deciSiemens per metre (dS/m)) and saline water irrigation (10-12 dS/m).
- Low yields and plant to plant variability is a limitation. Yield variation from a hundred grams to 2.5 Kg were observed in the first, second and third years and the seed yield increased with age.
- Genetic variability in provenances collected from different areas and sources is indicated, thus offering scope for plant improvement efforts.
These findings point out some important and crucial areas where biotechnology has an important role to contribute in successful implementation of biofuel programs.
Biotechnological tools and approaches appear to be very important in overcoming these limitations and providing materials having higher tolerance and productivity to these abiotic stresses such as salinity, alkalinity, irrigation waters having salinity, alkalinity and occurrence of frost. In addition, development of high yielding and uniform plant populations is another important requirement as low yield is a serious limitation in Jatropha, limiting its competitive ability. This will need concerted efforts in the laboratories and successful large scale trials at the field level. This is of utmost importance as, most of the time, success claims of developing better plant materials, made by our friends from biotechnology, are not backed by further efforts for their field validation thereby limiting their transfer and implementation at the field level as observed in most crops. For success, we need multi-disciplinary teams of molecular biologists, plant scientists, agronomists and soil scientists for working in the laboratories and actual field situations.
Jatropha has been reported to be sensitive to the occurrence of frost conditions which do occur in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in North India and other areas having similar weather which are being targetted for such plantations. Our experience shows that application of irrigation prior to the expected frost helps the plants in overcoming the injurious effects of frost. However, application of biotechnology can be quite helpful in improving its tolerance to face such situations and spreading the area of cultivation.
Thanking you and the FAO for providing such an important platform and opportunity thereby bringing experts and other people involved in this area having high importance for the mankind.
Dr. S. K. Sharma,
Principal Scientist (Plant Physiology),
Central Soil Salinity Research Institute,
Karnal- 132 001,
Phone : (O) - 0184-2291119 Ext. 127
(R) - 0184- 2291882
Mob. : 91-98961 72185
e-mail: sksharma (at) cssri.ernet.in
Sent: 02 December 2008 10:57
Subject: 48: Re: Biotechnology applications for bioenergy: small-scale farmers
My name is Sally Mallowa. I am a plant scientist and am the product development manager for BioCassava Plus in Kenya, which is a Gates Foundation funded project intending to nutritionally improve cassava.
Thanks Bosibori on message 46 and Christina on message 32.
I am convinced that small scale farmers are very sensitive and street-smart to the technologies that are good for them. As with genetically modified products so should the principle be with biofuels and if it improves livelihoods and betters their lives they will go for it.
Hardest hit by the current fuel wood crisis in developing countries are these resource-poor small scale farmers..and biofuels should be a welcome technology. The trick about involving them from the word go..is they want to know when can I have it in my kitchen..and if it will take five years to get there, they lose steam.
Maybe we should have the crop that the small scale farmer can grow for biofuels and generate an income..or biofuels that even she can utilise..first..in the foreseeable future. Then involve the farmer.
Product Development Manager - Kenya
c/o KARI Biotechnology Center
P.O.Box 57811, 0200
e-mail: mallowa (at) yahoo.com
Sent: 02 December 2008 11:41
Subject: 49: Re: Biotechnology applications for bioenergy: small-scale farmers
This is from Wim Polman, Bioenergy Officer in FAO's Environment, Climate Change and Bioenergy Division at FAO Headquarters, Rome. I am Dutch, have worked 25 years in FAO ESH/SDA, covering about 34 countries in four regions as Rural Institutions Officer at FAO Headquarters for 13 years and 12 years as Rural Development Officer in Asia. Most positive experience at field level with promotion of participation of small farmers indigenous peoples and landless in local decision-making and small farmers including cooperative enterprise development. Publications on http://www.fao.org/world/regional/rap/susdev_rural_devt_regional.asp.
In response to messages 32 and 46 from Christina Seeberg-Elverfeldt and Bosibori Bett:
Happily in several Asian countries, e.g. Thailand and India, small scale farmers are already actively engaged through agricultural cooperatives in awareness building, education and skills development on biofuels development for local production, processing, consumption and surplus marketing. These cooperative bioenergy ventures often combine food production with growing of biofuel crops on abandoned or otherwise not used/ unproductive land, for additional income and employment.
What is often lacking in those developing countries is development of positive synergies between farmer cooperative enterprise development as food and bioenergy producers and government bioenergy policies and programs related delivery of support services including access to credit, suitable technologies, extension, faciltation of marketing. Pro-active small farmer focused bioenergy policies would include legislation which enables small farmer cooperatives to operate on the local markets as energy producers and distributors.
The role of small farmer cooperatives is most important to create for its member small scale producers a larger scale economic unit which can negotiate market prices for inputs, access to government support services and better prices on the market. In many cases, small farmer cooperatives are able to purchase processing machinery and tools for production of bioenergy products for its members to become viable food and bioenergy entrepreneurs. Public sector investment in sustainable bioenergy development should include piloting of development and application of suitable processing machinery based upon cost effective first generation biotechnological research for improved on-farm productivity of both by- and end-products for enhancing small farmer income and employment generation.
In 2007, FAO initiated in Thailand a first regional policy dialogue on this topic (FAO-NEDAC [Network for Development of Agricultural Cooperatives in Asia and the Pacific] regional workshop on role of agricultural cooperatives in biofuel development at community level for rural food and livelihood security). This successful meeting led to follow-up field level case studies on small farmers participation in jatropha cultivation processing and marketing for rural livelihood improvement in India and Cambodia and to a request for FAO technical support from the government of Thailand. Most recently, also at FAO Headquarters a first presentation took place of a series of draft country-level case studies covering succesful local bioenergy initiatives for rural livelihood purposes, covering 14 countries in Africa, Central and Latin America and Asia.
Next step could be a technical well prepared meeting between biotechnology practioners and experts on small farmers group and cooperative enterprise development to discuss research and extension priorities and strategies in support of sustainable bioenergy for rural livelihoods of small farmers.
Bio Energy Officer
Environment, Climate Change and Bioenergy Division
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
Via delle Terme di Caracalla
e-mail: Wim.Polman (at) fao.org
[For some more details on the 2007 regional workshop in Thailand, see http://www.fao.org/world/regional/rap/highlights_detail.asp?event_id=36398&year=2007 ...Moderator].
Sent: 02 December 2008 13:04
Subject: 50: Patents and profitability
This is Julie Newman, a farmer from West Australia, again (see message 24).
While non-cropping biotechnology solutions to enhance bioenergy production mentioned could introduce new potentially profitable industries, using genetically modified (GM) cropping solutions for bioenergy may have the opposite effect of rendering farmland unprofitable and unsustainable if risks are not managed correctly. (Non-cropping biotechnology solutions could include enzymes etc. that maximise efficiency after production rather than manipulating the crop itself, while GM cropping solutions are where a conventional food crop has been manipulated to produce altered biofuel products).
If farmers are to support GM bioenergy crops, it is important that the technology will benefit the farmer, not just the research sector and investors. A major problem with GM crops is that there are so many multiple patents involved and development could be price prohibitive unless very good returns can be promised to investors or alliance partners without eroding the profitability of farmers. If benefits for farmers are available, these can be negated by charging higher costs in order to support the industry and investment partners. While a balance can be struck in an average year, if seasonal conditions result in below average yields, the farmer has outlayed more money than they can earn. When GM cotton failed in India, farmers were vulnerable to very high interest rates charged by loan sharks resulting in an extraordinarily high suicide rate.
While the research sector priorities are patents, partners and progress, the priorities for farmers are profitability and sustainability and a symbiotic relationship is essential. I agree with Bosibori Bett (message 46) that farmer support is necessary and if "farmer field schools" are used to promote the new crop advancements, that the information relevant to farmers is the priority for farmers, not the priorities for the research sector. The information required for farmers is the benefit (agronomic and economic), the alternative (alternative crops and alternative future choices), the risks (can it be segregated, can it be sold?) and the risk management required (if the product can not be segregated and can not be mixed with food crops, it should be contained in small scale well contained areas, not openly grown among food crops).
However, rather than developing the product then collecting the data required for farmer support, it is more important that this information is collected prior to evaluating the project in order to avoid investing in a project that is unmanageable when commercialised. Any decision to develop and commercially release a genetically modified, patented, self-replicating bioenergy crop that could create adverse effects if eaten must be taken seriously as it is extremely difficult to recall from food crops and contamination is inevitable.
Network of Concerned Farmers
66 North Rd
Phone 08 98711562
Fax 08 98711584
Email: julie (at) non-gm-farmers.com
Sent: 02 December 2008 16:52
Subject: 51: Re: Tissue culture for Jatropha
This is from John Atoyebi at the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology at Ibadan in Nigeria.
I believe a developing country like Nigeria must embrace the development of capacities in Jatropha utilisation for biofuel as an alternate source of energy. This might be difficult initially, but might be a way out of the energy crisis. It is presently an interest of our country, particularly our laboratory towards perfecting protocols for tissue culture techniques of Jatropha, targeting those collections existing in the country.
National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, P.M.B 5382,
Ibadan, Oyo State,
Tel office 00234-2-2312622
Tel mobile 00234-8033824752
johnyinka (at) yahoo.fr